The Sky Inside: Cabane: Paul-André Fortier at the Fleck Dance Theatre


Concept, choreography and direction by Paul-André Fortier

Performed by Rober Racine and Paul-André Fortier

Music by Rober Racine

Images by Robert Morin

Danceworks at the Fleck Dance Theatre, Toronto

February 11-12, 2011


For the performance of Cabane, we enter the Fleck Dance Theatre to a severely stripped back proscenium. The normal thick curtains, draperies, and coverings are all missing from the extremely high black roof and walls, exposing a vast array of wires, lights and paraphernalia usually hidden from the audience. This creates a raw, almost dangerous-feeling cavernousness. And though it is dark up there (the lights are off), and night-sky-like, it is also vertiginously open.

On the stage, below this technically strewn overhead vault, is a rough-looking wooden cabane, or shed, whose plain beige walls measure about 12 feet wide by 18 feet long. The little building is about 10 feet in height, and is brightened by plain sticks of strong fluorescent light. The cabane has one door and one window (that we can see), and is surrounded by several contraptions that appear to be mysterious black tripods.

On the cabane’s flat roof, with his legs hanging over the edge, sits Rober Racine. Wearing a pale blue long-sleeved shirt, dark blue pants, black shoes and black leather gloves, he mildly observes as the audience members find their seats. Beside him waits an upended bullhorn, which quickly becomes the sound magnification for his vocalizations: part sound poetry, part mouth-bird, part syllabic song.

When Paul-André Fortier emerges from the harsh bright light of the cabane, the rhythm of the piece has begun: brief, but intense, vignettes or tableaux, in which the men act separately or in concert, Racine doing more with sounding, Fortier more with motion, creating between them an ethereal, material, energy, as well as physical, metaphysical focus.

The movement is deceptively simple: in their typical white-collar work clothes, the performers jump and wheel. They run past the building like children, letting their fingers rattle across the wooden shakes. They each seem very alone, then intersect in amused collaboration, each with one hand on the floor, arms as fulcrums, walking in large circles, or chasing each other around the building.

Abrupt actions are taken with confidence, almost like “work.” Things are “useful” to the panoply of actions engaged in, whether it is a tripod that can be stood upon like a bird, while cawing and fluttering hands, or blown into for harmonica music, or four clear plastic bottles of water hoisted on thick wires, like glowing, postmodern fruit. The bottles reflect and deflect light, while the wire becomes a one-stringed instrument for Racine to play. Diligence, frivolity, rest: or labour, play, and sleep: life, distilled?

Racine and Fortier are ably aided and abetted by two helpers, keepers, symbolic students of the work unfolding before them, or technicians. The two serious young men capably operate projectors, re-affix objects or lower a dangerous-looking second bedspring once Racine has finished playing it like a huge, flat, plebian harp.

The work is further punctuated by sudden and temporary projections (created by filmmaker Robert Morin) of images against the wall of the shed: a huge black predatory-looking bird stares out at us with Fortier slumped against it and the wall, or twining grey branches are filled with twittering, smaller birds, for example.

Cabane contains “movement” and “events”: series of subtle, and then broader, visual set-pieces and soundscape-creation that are occasionally outbursts of joy. Both men, like little boys, bounce on bedsprings that have been wired for sound to become an instrument: sproinging, vibrating, and ringing. Yet they are not like little boys—there are moments of sudden power, and lifting strength—and also of odd magic, as if the two performers are strange angels, showing us their firmament of philosophy and art.

The cabane does not offer shelter; instead, it is a structure to climb into and out of, a shining six-sided, rectangular heart at the centre of the men’s activities. It is difficult not to feel deeply the contrast between the vast black temple of the theatre, and the humble small wooden hut on stage. Like us, as people, living our lives, inside infinite time, under infinite skies.